Unfair Taxes and Loyalties

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Unfair Taxes and Loyalties

The Taxation Acts were passed by the British government during the 1760s and 1770s to help pay off the debt the British had incurred during the French and Indian War. These taxes on trade and commerce caused unrest that would lead to the American Revolution. "Taxation without representation" was one of the central issues colonists had with the British because all laws and taxes were imposed by the British government without any colonist involvement. Many of the colonists believed that, because they were British citizens, they should be represented in Parliament if Parliament was going to make any laws that affected the colonists.

In this lesson students will learn about the Taxation Acts and relate them to our own state-imposed acts today. Students will explore “The Protest of the Committee of the Privates of the Military Association" and how the American Revolutionary soldiers desire for representation mirrors the reasoning why they went to war in the first place - lack of representation. Students will also analyze a Loyalist poem explaining the fear of leaving British rule and trust in the British constitution versus their feelings for the new U.S. Constitution.



Essential Questions

How can the story of another American, past or present, influence your life?
What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?


Students will be able to:
•    Explain the viewpoint of American Loyalists on the Revolution.
•    Evaluate how American citizen’s response to unfair taxes changed since the American Revolution.

Other Materials

  • The Protest of the Committee of the Privates of the Military Association student handout
  • Accounts of theatrical performances student handout
  • Presentation: Taxation Acts

Links for the materials are found at the bottom of the page

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1. (10min) Use presentation provided for background on taxes before the Revolution.


  • Do you believe these taxes are unjust enough to cause a violent reaction like the Revolution? Why?
  • What taxes today cause unrest? Examples:
    • Today in Philadelphia, since 2016. there is a Soda tax where for every soda sold there is a 1.5-cent tax per ounce of soda. The tax funds programs like subsidized pre-K and the public works program known as Rebuild.
    • In Chicago, there is a plastic bag tax since 2017.  Citizens of Chicago have to pay 7 cents per bag tax on both paper and plastic grocery bags.
  • Are taxes today similar to the Taxation Acts? Do they change your opinion whether taxes are unjust enough to cause such a violent reaction? Why?


2. (10min) While still in their two-person group, have students read “The Protest of the Committee of the Privates of the Military Association" from the Daniel Cunyngham Clymer Papers.

In the sheet provided, have students answer the following questions:

  • How does this protest of appointment of generals mirror the protest of Britain’s taxation acts? (representation)
  • What was it about the appointment of Generals that the Committee of Privates did not like?
  • If you were a private, would you be comfortable with the appointment of the Generals?
  • Would you, protest against the appointment of these Generals? Why?

After students are finished writing their answers, have them discuss their answers in their two-person group.


3.  (20min) British Constitutional Debate (Ball-Toss Debate could be an alternate debate activity):

Split the classroom and the desks down the middle. One group is for Britain while the other group is against Britain. Use a ball (can be a crumbled up piece of paper) to designate who is able to speak. When another person wants to participate, students can raise their hand for the ball to be tossed to them. Each side must alternate with the opposing side before they can speak again.

Students debate these questions:

  • Did the British government have the right to extend their authority into the colonies?
  • In this issue of rights to tax a colony, how is Liberty involved? Why? (opens up to the conversation of Liberty from previous lesson)


Have students get into groups of 3-4.


4. (10 min) Students read a transcript of Accounts of Theatrical Performances

Students answer and discuss questions present in the sheet provided:

  • What is the main idea of the poem?
  • Who is the intended audience besides British soldiers?
  • What type of workers are present in this poetry?
  • In the poem, what were the benefits shown to colonists for them to continue being under British rule?
  • What is happening to the colonists that are now under Colonial rule?


After the discussion, student leave their groups to work individually.


5. (10 min) Ending Activity: Choosing either a Loyalist or patriot perspective, each student creates their own poem describing their viewpoint on the Taxation Acts and a solution to taxation without representation.


Taxation Acts: The series of acts passed by the British government during the 1760s and 1770s that helped spark the unrest that led to the Revolution

Authority: Power to command thought, opinion, or behavior of others

Thomas Wharton: A patriot politician who worked with several others to undermine British laws of the colonies and was one of the main political leaders against British rule